How to Promote Your Photography on Social Media

Is there a right or wrong way?

Love it or hate it, social media provides an instantaneous snapshot into your professional or personal life. A 15 second scan can give any viewer an overview of your brand and what you have to offer. Platforms such as Instagram provide a powerful supplement to your business, and their value lies in the direct interaction you have with the community. Gerry van der Walt, a wildlife photographer who has used Instagram as a visual platform for his guided photography tours, “Wild Eye”, agrees that social media, and Instagram in particular, provides an invaluable tool to connect to your audience.

“As a photographer in today’s world, if you’re not sharing your images on social media, you’re leaving something on the table. We’ve built a business on social media, not on buying ad space. Initially, you’re posting to build your brand, then it becomes a way to generate revenue. Social media 100% contributes to driving our business. Instagram is where people spend their time, and it’s aimed at a visual nature. Put out great images consistently, engage with your audience, and your business will get better.


SmugMug Ambassador and acclaimed photographer Chris Burkard summed up social media’s value in a single sentence:

“So much of the story doesn’t make it to the final photo, but Instagram gives you an opportunity to connect with your audience in a way that a finished photo in a portfolio doesn’t.”

Chris’s #1 tip? “Don’t describe to people what they can already see.”

There are roughly a billion photos of “pretty sunsets” floating around the internet. What differentiates yours, will be how you arrived there, how long it took you to get the shot, why that pelican in the corner was causing you grief, or how the last surfer of the day gifted you the composition you’d been waiting for. For example:

What you see: A photo of a polar bear in Svalbard, taken by Gerry.


What you don’t see: This bear charged Gerry and the group of photographers he was with moments before this photo was taken.


How’s that for a story?

By creating a narrative around a static image, you are better able to open conversation around your experiences as a photographer. Utilize social media for the powerful storytelling tool that it is, instead of a dumping ground for every image in your camera roll that will simply get lost in the abyss.

So, what is the magical hashtag combination that will get you 1 million followers and make your photography a household name?

SPOILER ALERT: There is none.

Everyone wants the secret recipe for success when it comes to social media success, but does it exist?

The short answer is no, but there are a few key ingredients that are integral to remaining relevant in this ever evolving atmosphere. Without them, your photography and your social media channels are likely to get lost in a passing scroll amongst millions of other photos. In such a saturated space, how to begin or even maintain relevance can be overwhelming. Taking cues from some of our most successful Ambassadors, we narrowed down their top tips for promoting your business using social platforms:

Consistency“I don’t think you can post enough, if you have good content, keep putting it out there. I think a lot of people post too little,” Gerry told us. Give back to your audience, and give them a daily reminder of why they followed you in the first place.

Cohesion: A curated feed draws in the right type of audience. People who are interested in your specific brand, your style, and the way you present yourself and your photos will keep returning if they have a general idea of what to expect.

Authenticity: Both Gerry and Chris agreed that your voice should be apparent in the work you present on social media.

“Don’t post for your audience, don’t post what you think people want to see. Stay true to your message and the audience will come. The more you worry about likes, and what people may say, you’re stifling your creative voice and why you started in the first place”. — Gerry

“Algorithm aside, if you open up and give a piece of yourself, those are the posts that I’ve found do the best on my social media.” — Chris

And, if you take away nothing else…

Interaction is King.

  • Social media should be, first and foremost, a




    experience. Starting conversations and interacting with your audience is a vital component. Engage with everyone. Send Chris Burkard a message on social media, and you will receive a personal response from him, (it’s true, we’ve tried it). Despite having over 3 MILLION followers, Chris takes the time to interact with everyone who has taken the time to interact with him.


Both photographers we spoke to echoed the same overarching sentiment- if you do nothing else, talk to your followers.

“I see photographers who have beautiful photos, but have hundreds of unanswered comments. I think that is a mistake. I take the time to engage with my audience. Every single night I make sure to personify my brand by responding to every single comment. You can create a deeper connection to followers you’ll never meet by interacting with them, thereby creating a deeper connection and interest to your photography.”- Gerry

Social media is not a substitute for a solid portfolio and professional website, but it is an invaluable supplement to connect to a broad audience, get your name out, and represent yourself in a more personal way than simply a finished photo. Using Instagram and other social platforms as a catalyst to drive people to your portfolio, website, or print shop to drive sales is part of a comprehensive business strategy.

When it comes to prospective clients or customers, the fact remains that they probably will glance at your social media before bouncing to your website, and you have less than 30 seconds to make an impression. So while you should always remain authentic, you don’t need to saturate your feed with every photo from your SD card. Pick your favorite, quality images ; ensure that they represent you, what you stand for and your style. There is no secret sauce for social success —but it begins by remaining true to your art.

Follow Chris Burkard Instagram:




Written by Emily Truesdell

Apr 10, 2019 · 5 min read

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